Tag Archives: books

Wednesday Morning

I went to hospital this morning and parked up under the treatment centre. I spent the best part of an hour writing and watching life pass me buy then stuck a mask on and went in. The reason for the hour’s wait was because I wanted to get there while there were still spaces left.

By the time I walked into the entrance there were still spaces left – another great plan that didn’t quite work out. However, it wasn’t wasted time as I did quite a lot of writing. And compared to taking a taxi, I saved £12.

The sheet of questions you used to be asked about Covid has been reduced to a simple “Any Covid symptoms?” from a bored receptionist. This is quicker, but less reassuring.

By the time I left I had a lump of “putty” and two sheets of hand exercises. I am so looking forward to doing something like 20 exercises, each with ten reps and each at least twice a day. That’s going to be… (sound of wheels turning and gears clunking… a lot…

I’ve just ordered a couple of plastic gadgets to pop my pills out of the packets for me and, more importantly, to catch them for me. I tend to drop a lot due to declining dexterity.

I’ve also looked up my grip strength to compare it to the average. Seems that even with arthritis my grip strength in my dominant hand is strong. The non-dominant hand score is about two thirds of the other, but still good. I’m surprised at the size of the difference, though I couldn’t use one of my fingers on that hand. I’m feeling a bit better now, as I have been feeling pretty decrepit lately.

We went out for a coffee after I returned home, then went to Hobbycraft for Julia to buy things. Nothing much of any importance occurred but judging from my fellow drivers it was National Leave Your Brain at Home and Drive Like an Idiot Day, particularly for those driving 4x4s. Not one of them, it seems, can plan their route 50 yards in advance, with the result that I have to be barged to one side to allow them access to the lane they need.

While we were out we found a charity bin that takes books. It was nearly empty so all the books from the boot of the car went in there. I’m giving some specialist books to one of the customers on Saturday, so will have got rid of several hundred this week. It’s sad, but necessary.

 

 

 

Nudge nudge…

You may have noticed I didn’t post last night, though with so much activity on WP you probably didn’t notice. If you did notice, it’s possible that you remembered I posted recently on cutting back on my WP writing and thought, “Aha! He’s cutting back on his WP writing, just like he said he would.”

Of course, if you are one of the die-hard cynics that seem to congregate here, you may have thought “I bet he left it late then fell asleep in front of the TV”.

This goes to prove that, cynical as you may be, you aren’t incorrect.

I can’t remember what I was watching when I fell asleep, but by the time I woke up the TV had switched itself off. As the schedule seems to be full of rubbish, this was probably a good thing. In fact, considering the amount of rubbish on TV, it probably committed suicide out of shame.

We are still decluttering and more bags of books are on their way to the car. I emailed Oxfam to see about taking books in, and was told that I had to email the nearest shop to find out what the local policy was. They did offer to do it for me if necessary, but it seems an inefficient way of doing things.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Bumblebee on Teasel

At the moment, having been given room to think, we have offered the books to one of Julia’s volunteers who does jumble sales and is currently running a local library service.

If you’ve ever read Inside the Nudge Unit you may recognise my behaviour – looks like I’m a case study from the Behavioural Insights Team.

In summary, if you want people to things for you, you make it easier, or less easy not to do. Governments do this by streamlining forms and by adding a reminder that most people pay their taxes on time. If you don’t want people to do things (like cancelling standing orders) you just add an extra step and that serves to put a lot of people off.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Bumble bee on bramble flowers – Sherwood Forest

 

 

 

Authors, Austen and AI

I’ve just been reading this. I’m now more convinced than ever that technology is not for me. Having just read an article that tells me future books are going to be written by Artificial Intelligence. This is depressing. However, it isn’t as depressing as reading the AI attempts at classic literature.

Even more depressing, I read that the average reading age in the UK is somewhere between nine and eleven. There are a number of statistics around this, with a variety of measurements and interpretations, but it means that a lot of adults struggle to get by with reading. A significant proportion can’t read simple notes or road signs. I am worried by this for a number of reasons. Not only will these people not be able to enjoy the pleasure of Wordsworth or Wodehouse, but there is a distinct possibility that they are a danger to other road users. That, I suppose, is why so many road signs have pictures on them.

The state of the nation’s education system was first revealed to me when I was recruiting school leavers to work on a poultry farm. I told the careers advisor we would need people within reasonable literacy and numeracy skills but after they sent several illiterate candidates (because it was only a poultry farm) we reverted to advertising in the local paper.

I won’t even mention my view of careers advisors because I think we covered that a few days ago, but I was shocked to find that it was possible to pass an entire school career without learning to read and write.

blur book stack books bookshelves

Photo by Janko Ferlic on Pexels.com

So much depends on being able to read. In fact everything depends on it, including your academic results in other subjects, and your success (not necessarily monetary)  in life. Yes, you can be successful without being a great reader but it must be harder.

You can either believe me about this or you can search the internet. The only trouble with the internet is that there is so much information, often gathered and interpreted differently, that it’s hard work putting it all together. You read one list of the top ten nations for literacy and then you read another and only a couple of the countries are duplicated. Unfortunately they tend to agree that the UK is about 17th. It’s not a disaster, but it’s not very good either.

One of the sites I read had a question from a user asking if anyone out there had read 100 books. People were generally quite polite, but they did mention that they had read 100 by the time they left school or had read fifty or even a hundred in a year. It all depends on what you call a book. I’ve probably been going through three a week during lockdown, but we’re talking about Golden Age and modern cosy crime books, so they aren’t actually hard.

I really must start a better balanced reading programme, a few more classic novels and some non-fiction. That, however, is a diversion. We’re talking about literacy, not about me squandering my life on whodunnits.

I’ve tried various ways of reading a better selection over the years, but it always degenerates into a discussion of why I hate Don Quixote. I just re-read that post, from 23 April 2016, and found the sentence “I had muesli for breakfast as I wanted something smallish in case I set my socket off.”

No, I haven’t a clue what I meant to write.

I’ve just been reading the local literacy project website, and have decided to start volunteering once lockdown ends. Really, I should have been doing it for years.

The question is whether I volunteer to help adults or children.At least, by telling you all I am making sure I can’t back out.

boy in white and black school uniform reading book

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

 

Awkward Friday

It’s one of those odd days today – the day between Boxing Day and the weekend. I’m not sure anybody knows what to do with it. I got up early to do things and get myself in gear before returning to work on Saturday. The things I ended up doing were watching TV, eating toast and ringing people instead of going to see them. It was just so relaxing sitting at home with food, fire and family. It just goes to show that some things never go out of fashion.

I always used to work Christmas Day when I worked with poultry, as it used to allow the family men to have time off with their families. Later, I used to work Boxing Day and New Year’s Day doing antiques fairs. It’s only in the last ten years that I’ve begun to relax and enjoy holidays at home. This may, of course, simply be a sign of age or idleness, rather than a sign of relaxing.

I have been catching up on some reading over the last few days, nothing heavy, just a few crime novels. I’m just finishing Death on the Canal, part of a series set in Amsterdam featuring a female detective so weighed down with personal baggage that you just want to scream “less is more!” at the author.

I may write a full review later, but as it stands, with a Goodreads score of 3.7, it’s good , and I’d read more if they were given to me, as this one was, but I’m not sure I’d search them out and pass money over. Well written, great sense of place but too much baggage and the plotting isn’t quite crisp enough. I’m near the end and a character from the beginning has just been introduced as part of the solution. I’m not sure I’m happy with that – it’s one step beyond a red herring. I’m also starting to think I’ve missed a hole in the plot, so I’m off for a quick look.

I’ll let you know after I’ve finished and double-checked.

Meanwhile, I’ll slip in another library photograph. It’s a canal at Stoke on Trent. It’s a very vague link to Amsterdam, but it’s the best I’ve got.

 

 

A Different Sort of Day

Had bacon sandwiches for breakfast.

Did some decluttering and deadheading.

Had an argument about the best way to declutter. I, as usual, was wrong. It seems it’s far better to move lots of stuff multiple times and pile it up dangerously rather than just doing it once in a structured and stable manner. However, my way takes thought and it would involve me making decisions instead of just doing what I’m told.

We had lunch at McDonald’s, where they were having a “Bring Your Own Idiot to Work Day” judging by the service.

After that, we managed to hunt down a charity shop with a parking space outside. They now have eight bags of books we have more carpet to hoover.

Many of the books are cookery books. You can buy some excellent cookery books from charity shops for £2 or £3. However, I rarely use them much (usually only a couple of recipes) and they then gather dust.

Today, with some wax polish and an old vest, I removed the dust and added some gloss before returning them to the charity shop system.

My X-Ray appointment today did not go as well as the last one. Instead of same day service and ten minutes from start to finish, I had to wait three days for the appointment and sit in a stuffy corridor for an hour.

You would assume they had a great array of techniques and equipment to X-Ray fingers. They are tricky things to photograph from the side as you have to avoid taking all the others at the same time. With a metal plate (which I’m sure they used to use in the old days) and some gaffer tape I could have easily rigged something up, but with me holding the unwanted fingers out of the way and one wedge of blue foam it takes a while.

It’s nice to know that you get better service when they are looking for lung cancer than when they are looking for arthritis. Having said that, you still have to wait 7-10 days for the results whether you have a terminal condition or difficulty holding a pen.

I don’t, by the way, have lung cancer. I have a cough. That’s why I went to the doctor – pills for a cough, not an X-Ray followed by pills for a cough seven days later.

This is a good thing as I’ve just spent £300 on two new dental crowns. It would have been annoying not to get the use out of them.

There’s no point having the nicest teeth in the cemetery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scone Chronicles XVIII – Bakewell Pudding

The header picture is Julia sitting outside the Bakewell Pudding Parlour. Last time she was left to her own devices here she ended up buying macaroons. I’d forgotten all about that, and, once again, failed to supervise her in an appropriate manner. She emerged with teas, bakewell puddings and cheese pasties. She keeps feeding me despite my diet. When I say pasties, by the way, they were monstrous. They were big enough to use as hats. It seemed rude not to eat it, even though it contains a possibly lethal dose of fat and calories.

 

However, I’m not going to talk about pasties, because this is a chronicle of scones. So I’m going to talk about Bakewell Puddings. There’s only so much you can say about scones, and I’m short of ideas for places to visit at the moment. My brain seems to be working rather slowly at the moment. I swear I’ve declined in intelligence over the last few months. Much more of this and I’ll have no option but to embark on a political career.

The Bakewell Pudding, as made in Bakewell, is not the same as the shop bought Bakewell Tart, which is generally an iced cake in a pastry case.  I’ve not made a Bakewell of any type myself, though I have made frangipanes with Cape Gooseberries (physalis, inca berries, ground cherries – it has so many names).

Today’s puddings were great – flaky pastry cases full of sticky deliciousness. Julia didn’t care for them, preferring something less sticky. It’s an ill wind that blows no good, or, in other words, I ate hers too.

In truth, they will never replace scones, but they are a pleasant change and it seems silly to go all the way to Bakewell to eat scones.

 

I also bought a few books, so it was a good day.

A Difficult Day

There were 21 parcels to pack this morning according to eBay, but in reality there were only 15 because six of the orders had come in on Saturday afternoon and we’d already packed them.

Fifteen is still enough.

When I arrived, via a blood test and McDonald’s, there was a telephone van outside the shop but he drove off as I unlocked. I went in, set everything going, and settled down to do the questions. There were five questions, one of which didn’t merit an answer. I wasn’t able to answer the other four so that was soon done.

Then I listed the items that needed packing, reached for the first one and started to pack. I pressed the button to find the address, and the internet died.

When the boss arrived ten minutes later I was busy switching off, restarting and prodding the reset button with a paperclip. And muttering.

He revealed that there was a telephone engineer outside again. On enquiring about our service, we were told he couldn’t possibly be to blame as he didn’t know which wire was ours.

Neither of us found this terribly convincing as any idiot with a tool box is capable of causing disruption, regardless of knowledge.

We struggled through the next hour using the boss’s phone and an unsecured BT account we found whilst searching.. It was slow and tedious.

Then, as if by magic, the internet returned. We looked out of the door and found that the telephone engineer had gone.

That’s a coincidence isn’t it?

Despite this we managed to get all the parcels packed and despatched. We also managed to serve a rush of customers, who started coming in as soon as the internet flickered back to life. It was almost as if they knew we had things to catch up on.

At least I didn’t have time to be bored.

In the afternoon I got rid of four bags of books, coughed a lot at the dust and got told off by Julia.

It’s been a difficult day.

The picture is a Great Tit in the Mencap Garden. There were several about with nesting material in their beaks when I was down on Friday. As usual, I couldn’t get a decent shot so this one, with no nesting material, will have to do. I’m going to try again tomorrow.

The Scone Chronicles XIII

And yet again – no scones.

The venue was the bookshop at Brierlow Bar and though Julia looked carefully, she could see no scones.

She did, however, buy two slices of glistening home-made cake. It looked sumptuous. And delicious. And once again I had to relearn that tough life lesson that looks can be deceptive.

As you may have noticed, I’m not the cheeriest or most modern of people and I am suspicious of change. I’m still not fully convinced that the bookshop needed a cafe, or that a crowd of people and dogs is of benefit to a bookshop with narrow passageways. I’m almost certain that anyone who parks a pram in a gangway, so that fat men with walking sticks nearly fall over getting past, should be prosecuted by social services and their children put into a gloomy gothic orphanage.

In a way it’s a shame I didn’t fall as the combination of damp floor and blocked gangway is a dream for an ambulance chasing lawyer.

Much as I despise the current compensation culture it would be fun to sue and make a few cogent comments to the court about people running cafes in a space that should be filled with books.

I’m not sure whether I would then give the money to Julia for a new polytunnel or burn it on You Tube just to prove a point. (The point being that the money wasn’t important, not that I am stupid).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Good in Parts

Anyway, back to the cake. It was apricot and some sort of nut. Julia was in “Bear of Very Little Brain” mode and forgot the details on the way from counter to table. You’d have thought she’d have been brighter after an hour and a quarter of top flight conversation with me in the car, but apparantly not.

It tasted a bit like walnut, but there was definitely a large identifiable piece of cashew in there too.

I said: “Cashew!”

Julia said: “Bless you.”

After you’ve been married 30 years this is what passes for humour.

It was confusing cake because some of it tasted of ginger too. The top, where the glaze had soaked in, was nice and moist, but the lower two thirds was dry and quickly reverted to crumbs. Fortunately we had cake forks to deal with this problem.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Appearances can be deceptive

To sum up, and to put my personal bias to one side, the tea was good, as it always is (made with proper leaves and a strainer), the ambience is getting better as they sort things out, the cake could have been better, but even that wasn’t too bad, and the book stock seems to have improved.

I’m actually quite impressed with what they have done at Brierlow Bar, despite my resistance to the 21st Century.

 

Wasted Wednesday

Had a lie in this morning before dragging myself from bed, fighting with my trousers (second leg only, the first goes well most mornings). and eating breakfast.

Then I lost control of my day as Julia took over, sorting, decluttering, throwing away.

It’s not easy. We’ve just about filled the first skip and haven’t made much impression on the clutter mountain. I also had six bags of clothes in the back of the car, four bags of books and a bag of recycling.

However, when we left the house, the first job of the day was to buy replacement ear rings for Julia, who lost one yesterday. The books went to Age Concern, just along the road from the jeweller.

Then we went to a clean Salvation Army clothing bank. The local one is surrounded by rubbish and broken glass and we’ve stopped using it. After that we went to a supermarket car park with the paper recycling and did some shopping. Pasta bake again tonight.

After that it was Flu Vaccine for two and then home to tidy up.

We ran into some friends we hadn’t seen for a while when we were in the surgery – a sign of getting old I suppose. They are our age, but are grandparents now and have many more health conditions than we do. It sets things in perspective when you realise how ill some people are. When I’ve spoken to a man who takes 20 pills a day my five don’t seem too bad.

Julia is out at a meeting, as I write. She never stops.

I’m going to make tea in a minute.

It doesn’t seem much of a day. No visits, no scones, no bookshops. Pretty pointless really.

The featured picture is a fallen leaf – very haiku. It’s a reminder that I didn’t get my nature walk today.

 

 

Sundays and Self-Improvement

I’m currently reading yet another self-improvement book. I can’t recommend it as I’m currently wondering whether to carry on reading it, and one of the few things that I have learned from it is that extremely successful people say “no” more often than people who are merely ordinarily successful.

So I’m close to saying “no”, I won’t waste more of my life on this book. It’s strident in tone, doesn’t really explain the concept of being extreme and isn’t giving much in the way of insight.

Fortunately, being a Kindle book, it was cheap, it hasn’t killed a tree and nobody else will have to suffer as I can’t pass it on.

It’s even worse than the last one. I decided I would benefit from a book on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. So far, I haven’t. I kept falling asleep when I read it. This probably isn’t the fault of the book as I have a habit of buying psychology books despite knowing that they have a soporific effect on me. I’m going to persist with this one as I think it has something for me.

I can finish most books, including the one about eating frogs. It isn’t really about eating frogs, but it does offer an extended, and overdone, metaphor. It was irritating but useful.

For some reason the writers of self-improvement books really have it in for frogs, as do Victorian scientists.

A couple of weeks ago, I listened to a radio programme on self-improvement and research suggested that by the end of a self-improvement book you feel worse about yourself for failing to be the person the book implies you should be.

The strident book mentioned in the opening paragraph is a bit like that, and tells you that you should write all your failures in a journal as this helps you get over them. I’m currently failing to make the change from self-employment to employment, and did wonder, momentarily, whether to write it all down. I’m not sure, but if I do you will be the first to know.

The picture shows a cream tea that came off second best when it went head to head with me on Wednesday. It wasn’t the greatest cream tea, but it does have a link to self-improvement and failure in that one of my long-standing self-improvement targets is to lose weight.

That cackling sound you hear is 2,000 calories laughing ironically.

And that concludes my thoughts for Sunday morning.